Vaccine trackers: Bay Area company monitors side effects, adverse reactions for future safety

As the vaccinations get underway, data will be collected to track granular details, such as adverse reactions and which vaccine a patient received and when. This will help with future vaccine development.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The long-awaited rollout of coronavirus vaccines has heightened anticipation of slowing the pandemic. Even as immunizations have begun, more clinical trials will continue to bring more vaccines to market. A Bay Area company is behind that effort.

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Headlands Research was involved in the clinical trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but their work is far from over.

"We need hopefully three to four if not more of those to succeed if we're going to really try to get across the whole global population as fast as we can," said CEO Mark Blumling.

Headlands is also working with Johnson & Johnson and with AstraZeneca. Both pharmaceutical companies have large-scale trials underway, possibly involving 30,000 people, that will wrap up sometime in January and early February.

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Most of Headlands' trial sites are in the South, and that's important to researchers to have access to patients who come from diverse backgrounds.

COVID-19 has disproportionately infected and claimed the lives of members of ethnic and racial minority groups.

"We had sites in Texas and Louisiana. We had 90 percent Latinx population across one of the trials in Moderna and in excess of 40 percent African American at our Atlanta site, and that's really important for the trials that we get that diversity enrollment," said Blumling.

Such enrollment in the clinical trials could address concerns about vaccine safety or their efficacy.

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As the vaccinations get underway, data will be collected to track granular details, such as adverse reactions and which vaccine a patient received and when. This will help with future vaccine development.

It's made possible because each vaccine has a tracker.

"You can make sure who's gotten the vaccine, make sure they have a follow-up," Blumling said. "A lot of this is done being done electronically, and when you're trying to vaccinate 320 million people ideally across the United States, you can't really do it on a paper format."

By the end of the trials, it's estimated as many as 164,000 Americans will have participated.

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